26 Aug This Moment is Eternity
by Ted Box
Dave lived down the canal, diagonally across from our old house. His mother had committed suicide by jumping in front of a train with him in her arms. He was untouched, and too young to remember, but I didn’t believe that for a minute. I don’t care how young he was. Of course, he didn’t know this, his father made up a story about her dying in a car accident. Dave was raised by his father and his drunken grandmother. She was kind, she loved us, but she loved her liquor just a little bit more. The thing about Dave was, along with being a sweet boy, he was a deep thinker. We would be kids one minute and philosophers the next.
One summer day we were fishing in his boat, which was often the case, as his father gave him all the gas money he asked for, and the bay was a safe place for boys, plus, his father trusted both of us.
We caught a flounder, and Dave stuck a screw driver in its back. I looked at him, ‘what the fuck?” and quickly cut off its head. “Let’s cook it” Dave suggested as if nothing out of the ordinary happened. Boys are flexible. I shrugged off his uncharacteristic act of cruelty, and we headed to shore. We quickly had a fire going and the flounder was broiling in a frying pan, although we both knew this was just food. Without butter or salt, we weren’t going to find any joy in our meal.
It started to rain, and we huddled under a tarp we kept in the boat for bad weather,
Dave unzipped his fly and pissed in the frying pan.
“Jesus Christ, what’s gotten into you?’
After a long silence he said “I found the key to the lockbox on my dad’s dresser. There were pictures of my mom, and a newspaper article.”
I didn’t say anything. I wanted to, but what words could tame the ones he read.
“Do you believe in heaven?” He asked.
“Yeah, but not sitting around playing harps and singing hymns. I think heaven is where everyone does what they love doing.”
“People that commit suicide don’t go to heaven.”
“You don’t know that, Dave. We don’t know anything. All we know is what we can see and touch, everything else is guessing.” It stopped raining and Dave threw sand into the frying pan and scrubbed it clean.
“I’m not going to commit suicide,” he said… “I don’t believe death ends the play.”
“No. I don’t think so either. We couldn’t have gotten this advanced just to die and be nothing. What would be the point?”
We got in the boat and headed back to the harbor. Once in the canal, we trailed our hands in the water, never understanding how the water felt so warm on the way home, whereas, on the way out, it just felt normal.
Back at Dave’s, we climbed in his hammock attached from a hook in the tool shed, the other end fastened to a hook in the giant weeping willow tree that hung over the canal and listened to rock and roll on WINS 1010 New York City. We were still too young to feel odd side by side in a hammock. We fell asleep to “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport,” and were awakened by his grandmother calling us for lemonade and cookies.
We sat on the dock with our feet hanging over. Time seemed to stall in the August heat as dragonflies hovered, and snappers broke the surface as they snatched silversides, their favorite food.
‘This moment is eternity.” Dave said with a mouthful of oatmeal-raison cookies.
We sat there, two boys thinking of eternity, infinity, everything and nothing, struggling with our confounding inability to grasp the ungraspable. I mean, there’s an easy infinity, like counting, you can always add another number, but what about the universe, did it go on forever, and if it didn’t what was that?
We finished our cookies and climbed back in the hammock. “I’m sorry about your mom.” I felt Dave shudder, and realized he was crying. I put my arms around him and held him like I held my little brothers.
I don’t know why, but I started crying too, after a while, Dave started to snicker, pretty soon we were laughing so hard we couldn’t catch our breath.
I figured Dave was going to be all right, so I walked up the street to Mike Hartling’s house, a friend who lived with his aunt who walked around topless inside their house whose name was Eleanor, but who everyone called Blondie, dove in the canal with my clothes on and swam to my house. The sound of a train whistle and “This moment is eternity” playing in my head like a beer ad.
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